The Lakers played the second of a six game homestand Sunday night against the Kings. The Kings and Lakers both entered the game at two wins and four losses—tied for the worst record in the West. For the Lakers, this was just their second game under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff as the details of a deal bringing Phil Jackson out of retirement and back to L.A. are still being hammered out. The collective desire to bring eleven time NBA champion Jackson back as coach was clear in the “We want Phil!” chants ringing through Staples Center during a Laker win over Golden State.
Kings without DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings would be missing starter Demarcus Cousins, losing their primary force in the paint. Cousins came into the game averaging seventeen points and nine rebounds per game. Cousins was suspended for reportedly confronting Spurs announcer Sean Elliot. The Kings were also missing rookie big Thomas Robinson.
The Lakers started with Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. Laker players were wearing star spangled accessories to complement their Sunday white uniforms in honor of Veteran’s Day.
The Lakers started off by going inside but to no avail as the Kings struck first with an Isaiah Thomas three pointer. The first Laker points were scored on a Pau Gasol jump shot. Isaiah Thomas abused Steve Blake again with his speed, something problematic for the Lakers all season. The key early on for the Lakers seemed to be pounding the ball inside.
The offense was still a little disorganized as both Kobe and World Peace forced consecutive shots. On defense, Isaiah Thomas and Travis Outlaw bothered the Lakers with their agility but still ended up settling for jump shots. The first highlight play of the game came with 7:23 to go when Steve Blake lobbed up a beautiful alley-oop for Dwight Howard.
Darius Morris came in for Steve Blake with five minutes to go in the first. Morris had a strong ten point performance on Friday off the bench. Morris did contribute early by drilling a corner three off a pass from Kobe. Jordan Hill had two nice put-backs as well. Steve Blake was looked at by the training staff and soon went to the locker room. It was later revealed that he had an abdominal strain and was questionable to return.
It was a classic battle between size and speed that had the Lakers up 29-22 after one.
The second quarter had been problematic all season but the bench had a strong performance on Friday and looked to follow it up. The Lakers had Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, as well as Jordan Hill and Darius Morris in the game.
The bench seemed to start with another struggle, beginning with multiple turnovers. By the time of the first timeout, the Laker lead was down to two. Antawn Jamison and Morris made several hustle plays to maintain the Laker lead and energize the crowd.
Both teams continued the quarter with sloppy play and soon had six turnovers each. Kobe quickly re-entered the game with 8:20 to go after minimal rest. After being out-hustled, the energy of the young Kings caused the lead to swing back and forth.
Steve Blake re-entered the game with the rest of the starters after being cleared by the training staff. Kobe Bryant free throws soon brought back the familiar “We want Phil!” chants.
The Lakers locked down on defense at the end of the second quarter and Kobe heated up on offense to rebuild a nine point halftime lead.
The Lakers went immediately back to the inside and continued to dominate the boards. The Kings did themselves no favor with lackadaisical help defense on Dwight Howard. Kobe picked up two quick fouls as the quickness of Tyreke Evans proved to be a nuisance. A personal run by Tyreke cut the Laker lead to six forcing a timeout from Bernie Bickerstaff.
The multifaceted nature of the Laker talents were immediately shown as the Kings were forced to help on Howard leaving Pau Gasol for a wide open outside jumper but the Kings continued to get out on fastbreaks and the lead was soon down to four. The size versus speed juxtaposition was once again displayed as the young guards of the Kings traded shots with the Laker bigs.
The talent of the Lakers was proving too much as Howard and Bryant stretched the floor giving Pau Gasol room to score on consecutive possessions. As the game went on, the Kings appeared to be missing DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson more and more. The Kings struggled inside on both offense and defense, as the Lakers just seemed to dwarf their opponents.
The Lakers made a nice highlight play while also stretching the lead to thirteen when Kobe threw up an alley oop for World Peace. Bickerstaff continued to go with Darius Morris of the bench, as Morris was putting together a solid night. The Lakers appeared to be cruising in the third quarter as Kobe and Pau used their established two man game to make it a fifteen point lead, capping off an 11-0 Laker run.
An energized Laker team was just too big for the shorthanded Kings, as Bernie Bickerstaff’s squad led by thirteen after three. Four Laker starters, all except Steve Blake, were in double digits for points.
The Lakers began the fourth quarter with multiple turnovers as the Kings tried tenaciously to fight back. The talented Lakers reached deep into their bench and brought out players such as Chris Duhon.
A quick run by the Lakers put them up by 20 and practically put the game out of reach. Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill still remained in the game while the other key players rested for a Tuesday matchup with San Antonio.
Bernie Bickerstaff made a surprising decision to bring four starters back in with only five minutes to go. Nevertheless, the Lakers still cruised to an easy victory over the Kings. It was the first winning streak of the season for the Lakers, and one they sorely needed. After the victory the team improved to 3-4, the closest to the .500 mark since they lost their opening game to the Dallas Mavericks back on October 30th.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers had defeated the Kings 103-89.